News Column

James Holmes' Notebook Fight Put Off

Sept. 21, 2012

By Trevor Hughes and Gary Strauss, USA TODAY,

James Holmes

Prosecutors in the Aurora shooting case have temporarily dropped attempts to read a notebook sent by suspect James Holmes to a psychiatrist days before the movie theater rampage that killed 12 and wounded 57.

Prosecutors had hoped to use the notebook to show Holmes planned the July 20 attack well in advance. Defense attorneys said it should be protected by doctor-patient privilege.

Holmes faces 12 first-degree murder charges in connection with the case and more than 140 counts of attempted first-degree murder. On Thursday, prosecutors added 10 more attempted murder charges against the University of Colorado doctoral program dropout. Details were not made public.

Acknowledging a fierce legal battle over the notebook was likely to ensue, prosecutor Rich Orman said it would be faster to drop the request. He said he's betting that if Holmes' attorneys use a mental health defense -- as they've indicated -- they'll have to let prosecutors see the notebook and other medical files. "At that point, the notebook may become important evidence," Orman said.

Holmes, 24, sent the notebook to Lynne Fenton, a University of Colorado psychiatrist who has said she last met with Holmes on June 11 -- a day after he left the school's doctoral program. Holmes failed an oral exam on June 7.

Both sides had been expected to appeal any decision about the notebook to the Colorado Supreme Court, potentially delaying the case for months.

Following Orman's reversal, Judge William Sylvester then granted Holmes' attorneys access to the notebook, which is held under seal by the court.

Holmes had disheveled, brightly dyed red and orange hair at the time of his arrest and in earlier court appearances. On Thursday, it was cut short and was dark brown. He also appeared more animated than at prior hearings.

In other action, Sylvester took under advisement a defense request for sanctions against prosecutors for saying in court that Holmes had been banned from the University of Colorado campus.

Defense attorney Dan King told Sylvester that the university denies banning Holmes, and that his keypad access was cut off only because he was in the process of withdrawing.

"There's not one iota of evidence that Mr. Holmes threatened anyone or was banned from campus," King said.

King asked Sylvester to admonish prosecutors for their statements, saying that with all the media interest, careless statements unsupported by facts could impact Holmes' right to a fair trial.

Holmes remains incarcerated in Arapahoe County Jail. His next court appearance is scheduled for Oct. 11.

Source: Copyright USA TODAY 2012

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